YOU'VE heard of Thales and you've heard of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory.
Now known as Lithgow Arms, the factory produces military rifles for the Australian Defence Force and you've probably heard of that too.
But, do you know exactly what goes into creating a weapon for those on the front line?
You're about to find out.
In the early 1900s, Lithgow was primarily farmland co-existing with coal mines, rail works and the iron and steel industry.
The Lithgow Progress Association and then MP Joseph Cook lobbied hard for the town to be the site for a small arms factory, the EHA Magazine's history of the facility shows.
It was on April 7, 1908 when the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs placed an advertisement in the Commonwealth Gazette advising of the purchase of lands for defence purposes at Lithgow.
The land was going for a sum valued at $602,000, EHA Magazine states.
On November 11, that year the Department of Defence called tenders for supply of a plant for manufacture of small arms, bayonets and scabbards, to be built at Lithgow.
That land purchase subsequently led to the US design and construction of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, an industrial icon of massive proportions in Australia's history, EHA Magazine states.
Since 1912, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory has proudly supported Australia's soldiers on battlefields around the world.
What kind of guns are made in Lithgow?
The factory's first order was for 15,000 Lee Enfield .303 inch bore, bolt action rifles which were used by Britain and British-allied armies in World War I and II, Lithgow Arms general manager Bruce Hutton said.
"Over the years the factory has manufactured the Lee Enfield .303, Vickers Machine Gun, Bren Light Machine Gun, L1A1 SLR and the F88 as well as a range of civil rifles and commercial products."
Lithgow Thales currently manufactures the EF88, a Lithgow designed rifle.
"The 'E' stands for enhanced, Lithgow began as a 'build to print' factory, but this has developed over time with Lithgow now having substantial design expertise," Mr Hutton said.
Thales has also announced plans for the site to develop and manufacture the next generation solider weapons systems of the future Australian Defence Force (ADF).
"In order to maintain a capability advantage for Australia's Defence Forces, the soldier weapons systems of the future will integrate both traditional manufacturing and digital technologies, including 3D printing, advanced optical and targeting equipment and digitally networked communications," Mr Hutton said.
The factory also repairs and maintains the ADF's machine guns, as well as manufacturing high-end civilian hunting, target and sporting rifles.
"They are 94 per cent Australian made and all made here in Lithgow," Mr Hutton said.
"The big thing is they are a quality product for a medium price, so you get a very good quality rifle compared to what's imported."
While the factory mainly makes firearms, it also manufactures handcuffs.
"Most of our market for handcuffs is in Australia for corrective services and police departments," Mr Hutton said.
How are the guns manufactured?
Roughly 23.5 man hours per rifle are needed to build an SMLE 303 rifle, whereas an F88 takes roughly seven hours.
The barrel is made up with raw material, either steel or aluminium, while other components were generally plastic injection molded parts.
"To make a barrel we start off with a bar, we face it, chamber it, deep hole drill it, turn the OD profile and we then hone the bore to make it a super clean fine finish," Mr Hutton said.
The bar is then put into a cold forging machine where a mandrel is stuck up the bore and four hammers go at about 980 to 1000 blows a minute, pushing the material down onto the mandrel which forges the rifling into the barrel and chamber.
"The barrel then goes off and through a number of other operations," Mr Hutton said.
"Our military stuff is hard chromed, using an electroplating process, then it moves on to the assembly type operations where we put in the gas block, another component that we've made from a piece of near-net form material, right through to being finally phosphated, painted and then assembled into a weapon."
The slide, another major component, starts off with a billett.
"It is actually again near-net form so we've designed it to take the least amount of material off it as possible," Mr Hutton said.
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- Hartley-based blacksmith Ron Fitzpatrick the hands behind stunning sculptures, mirrors and jewellery
- Honeysuckle Produce distributing ethically and sustainably grown beef
- Nanna's Touch Sue Murdoch creates sensory products for people in need
- Treasured Creations' Alyssa Muldoon creates cards for all occasions
- Lithgow's Mandy Clarke gives neglected furniture a fresh look and a new life
- Samantha's 'crochet creations' include scarves, beanies and Kombi Vans
- Rhonda makes 'unique, one of a kind' products on her dining room table
"We machine it and harden it through an induction process, then there's brazing operations and eventually an assembly operation as well.
"That's pretty much the same for the aluminium components again -start off as a piece of billet or as a high pressure die cast and then we machine it, generally hard anodize it and then paint and assemble."
Quality checks are conducted on the machines during the manufacturing process, including for every operation using gauges and instruments.
"There are automatic gauging stations, but also depending on the classification of defects it could be one in 10 components go to our metrology department where they check the component against the specification," Mr Hutton said.
Anything that is out is flagged which helps staff look at trending activities.
"If we can see a component going out of spec, we can stop it from going out and change it and keep that component in play," he said.
Mr Hutton said rifles were then tested in the factory's endurance shooting indoor test centre.
"We have four 50 metre lanes and the guns are put through the test," he said.
The hands behind the manufacturing
Thales employs around 150 people at the Lithgow site who work on a two-shift production basis.
Mr Hutton said Thales takes its responsibility for manufacturing rifles for the ADF very seriously.
"Our operators are trained on many operations in the factory," he said.
"We have a very flexible, highly-skilled workforce that can move between the different manufacturing processes.
"I am very proud of their work and the high quality work that goes into manufacturing weapons for the ADF."